WASHINGTON -- Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Sunday that he believes Russia will ultimately control Crimea, the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea.
"I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hand," said Gates in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Host Chris Wallace asked Gates again: "You think Crimea's gone?"
"I do," said Gates.
Gates also said he expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to continue efforts to take control of the rest of Ukraine. "I don't think he will stop in Ukraine until there is essentially a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, in Kiev," said Gates.
Gates' remarks came amid reports that Russia has been scaling up its military presence in the region. The question of whether Crimea should break away from Ukraine and join Russia will be decided in a referendum on March 16.
Gates also reiterated his previous remarks that his fellow Republicans should "tone down" their criticism of President Barack Obama over the Ukraine situation. Congressional Republicans have accused the president of being "naïve" regarding Russia's actions and intentions in the region.
"Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president," said Gates. "Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force."